Schools across US closing for days at a time for 'mental health days'
Schools across the US are closing for stretches at a time on short notice to provide ‘mental health days’ for ‘burned out staff’ – leaving parents scrambling to home educate or find babysitters for their children
- Many schools across the country are cancelling classes for the entire week of Thanksgiving, citing mental health and increased Covid-19 cases
- According to Burbio, an organization that tracks school district websites, 858 school districts and 1,887 individual schools saw disruptions in their schedule
- Nearly 20 districts in West Michigan closed their doors early with plans to reopen Monday and there are more than 1,400 open positions in Illinois schools
- But it’s not just teachers feeling burnout and a school district in Indiana announced it will be on a virtual learning schedule due to a lack of bus drivers
- Single mother and healthcare worker Jennifer Reesman told NPR she feels like she’s ‘witnessing the death of public education up close and personal’
Schools across the country have closed for days at a time on short notice to provide ‘mental health days’ for their ‘burned out staff’ due to COVID-related worker shortages, leaving parents scrambling to home-school their kids or to find babysitters because they have to work.
There have been 1,887 schools that saw disruptions in their schedule beginning Monday – an increase from 391 schools last week, according to Burbio, an organization that tracks school district websites.
This month alone, 8,692 individual schools have been affected by closures, which many school districts blamed on ‘staffing issues and mental health reasons’.
Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) in Michigan announced last week that their 18,073 students across the district’s 32 schools would get the entire week off in an ‘adjustment for Thanksgiving Week’.
Ypsplinati Community Schools is one of many across the country to announce the district would cancel classes on short notice for the entire week of Thanksgiving, citing mental health and increased Covid-19 cases
According to Burbio, an organization that tracks school district websites, 1,887 individual schools saw disruptions in their schedule beginning Monday – an increase from 391 individual schools disrupted last week (pictured)
Superintendent of Highline Public Schools in Washington state Dr Susan Enfield (left) has tried to combat shortages with one of the highest substitute teacher rates in the Seattle area and even got her own substitute teacher credentials to be able to cover classes herself. Meanwhile, Oakridge Public Schools Superintendent Tom Livezey (right) had to close his district’s schools along with nearly 20 other districts in West Michigan
‘We are currently experiencing an alarming increase in staff and student Covid-19 cases as well as related staffing challenges in the AAPS,’ the statement from Superintendent Jeanice K Swift read.
Swift went on to explain that the district would likely experience staffing challenges throughout the fall and in response, ‘have increased our daily and long-term substitute pay rates twice…to incentivize a struggling and shallow labor pool’.
Also in Michigan, Ypsplinati Community Schools announced the district would also be canceled on November 22 and 23 for ‘deep cleaning’ ahead of Thanksgiving break.
‘Two central themes have been at the top of everyone’s mind, physical and mental wellness,’ the statement read, adding that the school is continuing to mitigate Covid-19 and staff stepping up to fill in gaps has resulted in ‘unprecedented levels of fatigue’.
Nearly 20 school districts in western Michigan have closed early for the long holiday weekend with plans to resume classes on Monday, according to Fox 17.
Oakridge Public Schools Superintendent Tom Livezey told the news station: ‘We had 10 teachers absent on Friday that did not have a substitute teacher to fill the classroom. With all the closings and the domino effect of surrounding districts, caused us to close our schools due to an educator shortage.’
In Illinois, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 also canceled the full week of classes and blamed it on not having ‘adequate staffing or sub coverage to provide necessary care’.
‘We believe this is a result of educators and support staff needing to rest and focus on mental health,’ the statement added.
As of Tuesday, there are more than 1,400 open full-time positions in Illinois schools – more than double what it was four years ago – according to CBS2 Chicago.
In an effort to address mental health concerns among overworked and underpaid school staff, Detroit Public Schools have announced that the district will follow a virtual learning schedule every Friday in December.
Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) in Michigan announced last week that their 18,073 students across the district’s 32 schools would get the entire week off in an ‘adjustment for Thanksgiving Week’
AAPS Superintendent Jeanice K Swift released a statement explaining that the district would likely experience staffing challenges throughout the fall
It’s not just teachers who are feeling the burnout and ahead of a long weekend Anderson Community Schools in Indiana announced it will be on a virtual learning schedule on Tuesday, November 23, due to a lack of bus drivers
Anderson Community Schools made the announcement in a post via Facebook (pictured)
In Illinois, Evanston/Skokie School District 65 also canceled the full week of classes and blamed it on not having ‘adequate staffing or sub coverage to provide necessary care’
Superintendent Nikolai P Vitti explained the change in a ‘special announcement’ released on November 17 and noted that the decision ‘reflected on the concerns of school-based leaders, teachers, support staff, students and families regarding the need for mental health relief’.
He also cited rising Covid cases and time needed to clean schools more thoroughly.
Just last week, the nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci said that Covid-19 hospitalizations are rising among people fully vaccinated who have not had booster shots.
Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said waning immunity from the initial shots is leading to a rise in severe cases among immunized Americans.
‘What we’re starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who’ve been vaccinated but not boosted,’ he told NBC News in an interview on Tuesday.
According to CDC data, as of Sunday there were 29,286 new Covid infections, although it is unclear how many of them were breakthrough cases. The seven-day average was at 90,823.
Both figures were increases from the Sunday prior, when 27,898 new cases were reported and the seven-day average was 81,495.
In a statement t DailyMail.com, the CDC said it does not have data about the rate of hospitalizations among vaccinated people with a booster compared to those without.
In Oregon, Ontario School District 8C approved ‘Asynchronous Fridays,’ where students will have a day of independent study at the end of each week from November 19 to March 3.
On October 28, the Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina made the last-minute decision to make Friday, November 12 – the day after Veteran’s Day, which the district was also closed for – a mental health day for staff and students.
The announcement noted that Superintendent Tricia McMananus said that the ‘assignment for staff and students for that day is to take care of themselves’.
‘It will be a day to focus on the mental health of students and staff by showing kindness, community, and connection,’ McManus added before including examples of acts of kindness as well as social and physical activities proven to ‘alleviate feelings of loneliness, stress and anxiety’.
In Washington State, Superintendent of Highline Public Schools Dr Susan Enfield has tried to combat shortages by increasing the wages paid to substitute teachers in the Seattle area, according to NPR.
The district has increased rates for the stand-in teachers by $65 to $240 to be able to keep schools open through extreme teacher shortages.
Enfield described the measure as ‘an all-hands-on-deck situation’ and even got her own substitute teacher credentials to be able to cover classes herself.
She noted: ‘I love me a long weekend as much as the next person,’ but showed a greater interest in being there for parents who work during school hours.
‘I get it that my staff is tired. But for families, many of whom are working multiple jobs, and if they find out with two days’ notice that they have to find child care, that’s not an easy lift,’ the Superintendent explained.
Dr Anthony Fauci said on Tuesday that the US is seeing an ‘uptick’ in Covid-19 hospitalizations among fully vaccinated people who have not had a booster
But it’s not just teachers who are feeling the burnout.
Ahead of a long weekend, Anderson Community Schools in Indiana announced it will be on a virtual learning schedule on Tuesday, November 23, due to a lack of bus drivers.
On Monday – one day before the closure – the school district wrote in a Facebook post: ‘We will resume in-person instruction following Thanksgiving Break on Monday, November 29. We apologize for the short notice, but this is a situation outside of our control.’
Many parents across the country were enraged by the closures and left feeling that they cannot rely on America’s public schools system.
Tabbatha Renea, a single mother of a first-grader in Michigan’s AAPS, shared a fiery email sent to the superintendent with NPR.
‘Do you care at all about my child progressing with reading, writing, math, social skills, etc?’ she wrote, adding: ‘It’s not just about finding childcare. I can typically send my kid to sit in front of the TV at her Grandma’s house but her Grandma can’t do homeschooling work with her.
‘Consider the fact the decisions AAPS is making, that you are making, are ADDING to the uphill battle she and her mother have to fight to ensure she can be successful later in life. I hope you lose sleep over it the way that I have for the past 1.5 years and that I continue to.’
Another parent Jennifer Reesman, who works in healthcare and is a single mother of a daughter in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, said that the closers feel like ‘a slap in the face to all of those essential workers (who are also parents)’.
Montgomery County Public Schools canceled the half-day of school before Thanksgiving with a mere two-weeks’ notice.
‘Granted, it’s only a half day…but talking with other parents, we all feel like we’re witnessing the death of public education up close and personal,’ Reesman told NPR.
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